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We use ago in counting from the time of speaking to a point in the past; half an hour ago, three days ago, four months ago, five years ago, a long time ago. We use before in counting from a distant to a nearer point in the past. Napoleon died in 1821, he had lost the battle of Waterloo six years before.
When we use ago, the verb is always in the simple past tense: He came five minutes ago.
At present and presently are not synonymous. At present means now, but presently means soon: She will come back presently (= soon)
Hard means severely. Hardly means not quite or scarcely: The baby can hardly walk.
Scarcely isn't synonymous with rarely. Rarely means not often, scarcely means not quite: I had scarcely finished when he came.